The “Fighting Irish” moniker did not always apply to the men gathered on our football field; before Notre Dame football assumed the name as a badge of pride in their Irish heritage, the title belonged to the Irish Brigade of the Civil War, a band of Irish-Americans known for their bravery on the battlefield and their battle-cry “Fag an Bealach,” Irish for “Clear the way!”
Today, the three surviving flags for the “Fighting Irish” regiments can be found in three locations: at Notre Dame’s own Snite Museum, in New York at the sixth-ninth regiment’s Armory bar, and in Dublin at the home of the Irish parliament. At all three locations, the flag serves as a testament to history and a call to live up to the zeal and determination modeled by the young men who first earned the name of “Fighting Irish.”
ACE Ireland embodies this zeal in its fight to revitalize the Irish Catholic School system. Led by John O’Malley, recent recipient of the Malpass Award, the ACE Ireland Advocate Committee has been hard at work to “clear the way” for greater vibrancy and engagement among Ireland’s Catholic youth by supporting Irish Catholic schools as the lifeblood of Irish society.
Through partnerships with select schools in the country, sponsored fellowships, and monthly community masses, ACE Ireland has built a network of teachers and community leaders who have been breathing new life into the Irish church since 1996. Whether sending teachers to the Notre Dame as part of the Irish Teaching Fellows program, bringing American scholars to Ireland through the Ryan Fellowship, or training Irish teachers in Catholic education through their diploma program at Maynooth, ACE Ireland has continuously found new avenues for revitalizing the Catholic schools and Catholic faith that is so central to Irish society.
More than a thousand years ago, in an act of outright rebellion and defiance against the Irish king and his druidic faith, St. Patrick dared to light the Paschal fire on the Hill of Slane. Legend has it that the fire Patrick lit that night in Ireland will never go out, but will burn forever in the hearts of the Irish people. Miracles and legends aside, fires do not continue to burn without someone to tend them and fan their flames. ACE Ireland continues to do exactly that, following in the footsteps of St. Patrick and embracing the hard and joy-filled work of keeping his fire alive.